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Book and Media Reviews
July 12, 2006


Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(2):223-228. doi:10.1001/jama.296.2.226

The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the advantages of studying medical and psychiatric comorbidity over the lifespan. Published in 2006, it contains edited copies of presentations dedicated to this topic at the annual meeting of the American Psychopathological Association in 2004.

Unlike cross-sectional studies of comorbidity, life-course epidemiology tracks the temporal relationship between physical and mental disorders, even when the relationships can take decades to emerge. The approach can clarify cause-and-effect relationships or suggest that mental and physical disorders are both epiphenomena of an underlying genomic, environmental, or developmental disorder. The life-course epidemiologic model can control for Berkson bias, which overestimates the prevalence of comorbidity in clinics, since patients with more disorders are more frequent attendees of a clinic than patients with one disorder, and it avoids short-incubation bias, in which the relationship between two disorders requires a long time frame, perhaps decades, for an association to become manifest.

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